The SAT Fraud

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According to the College Board, the SAT is “intended to measure literacy, numeracy and writing skills that are needed for academic success in college”.

But the New York Times has discovered that this high school ritual is far more a measure of a student’s socio-economic status.

Something many of us who taught high school understood decades ago.

New data shows, for the first time at this level of detail, how much students’ standardized test scores rise with their parents’ incomes — and how disparities start years before students sit for tests.

One-third of the children of the very richest families scored a 1300 or higher, while less than 5 percent of middle-class students did, according to the data, from economists at Opportunity Insights, based at Harvard. Relatively few children in the poorest families scored that high; just one in five took the test at all.

Plenty of other research shows that academic disparity between rich and poor begins almost at birth. The quest for the holy grail of a high score on the SAT only really kicks in when kids get to middle school.

In the DC area, which includes some of the richest neighborhoods in the country, SAT/college prep is big business. Services that upper-class parents will pour tens of thousands of dollars into before their children graduate.

Many of the Freshmen I taught here in the overly-large school district first took the SAT in 8th or even 7th grade and already had a private college counselor when they arrived in my classroom.

Those kids also had the advantage of time. Almost none had jobs, or had to care for younger siblings after school, as many of my less advantaged students did.

Of course, the educational opportunity gap is neither a recent development nor solely the fault of the SAT, and the Times does address some of the increasing societal causes that exist outside the school building.

The bottom line, however, is that the SAT, which many colleges still use as a first-pass gatekeeper for admissions, is a wealth test, not one of academic ability or potential.

Although the College Board certainly wants everyone to see it as the latter. Their profits depend heavily on parents, schools, and the general public continuing to buy into that fraud.


I have no idea where the photo at the top was taken and the article it was used in, about the 2015 SAT cheating scandal, didn’t say. Around here, I’ve seen many high schools configure the gym like that for the big fall testing date.

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